Parents have been thirsty to ask me questions about how they can tell if their infant or young child is getting dehydrated due to a stomach virus or other illness. Well, let me see if I can fill up everyone's knowledge tank with some information on this topic.
Dehydration occurs when your body lacks enough water and body salts to keep it working right. When severe, this condition can result in life-threatening situations such as convulsions and dangerous heart rhythms. You normally lose water when you sweat, urinate, and even breathe, but you can lose more than normal if you have a virus that makes you throw up, causes diarrhea or increases your sweating due to a fever. We normally drink enough liquids to replace the water we lose every day, but if a virus makes us feel nauseous we may not want to drink enough to stay hydrated. People who have been out in the heat too long or who are doing vigorous athletic activity are also at risk for dehydration.
So what are some signs of dehydration? Older children may tell you they are thirsty (which is actually a late sign that dehydration is under way, not an early one) and may also appear lightheaded, dizzy or tired. Their lips or mouth may appear dry and they may complain of a rapid heartbeat as well. Infants may also show dry lips, lack tears when they cry, have sunken eyes, or a very sunken soft spot on the top of their heads. You might also notice a decrease in the frequency and the amount of urination for at least six to eight hours.
So what should you do if your child feels sick and doesn't want to drink?
Instead of forcing lots of fluids all at once, give your child small sips once or twice an hour.